War And Peace

CHAPTER XV

Chinese

AT EIGHT O'CLOCK Kutuzov rode out to Pratzen at the head of Miloradovitch's fourth column, the one which was to occupy the place left vacant by the columns of Przhebyshevsky and Langeron, who had by this time gone down to the plain. He greeted the men of the foremost regiment, and gave them the command to march, showing thereby that he meant to lead that column himself. On reaching the village of Pratzen he halted. Prince Andrey was behind among the immense number of persons who made up the commander-in-chief's suite. Prince Andrey was in a state of excitement, of irritation, and at the same time of repressed calm, as a man often is on attaining a long-desired moment. He was firmly convinced that to-day would be the day of his Toulon or his bridge of Arcola. How it would come to pass he knew not, but he was firmly convinced that it would be so. The locality and the position of our troops he had mastered to the minutest detail, so far as they could be known to any one in our army. His own strategic plan, which obviously could not conceivably be carried out now, was forgotten by him. Throwing himself into Weierother's plan, Prince Andrey was now deliberating over the contingencies that might arise, and inventing new combinations, in which his rapidity of resource and decision might be called for.

On the left, below in the fog, could be heard firing between unseen forces. There, it seemed to Prince Andrey, the battle would be concentrated, there “the difficulty would arise, and there I shall be sent,” he thought, “with a brigade or a division, and there, flag in hand, I shall march forward and shatter all before me.”

Prince Andrey could not look unmoved upon the flags of the passing battalions. Looking at the flag, he kept thinking: perhaps it is that very flag with which I shall have to lead the men. Towards morning nothing was left of the fog on the heights but a hoar frost passing into dew, but in the valleys the fog still lay in a milky-white sea. Nothing could be seen in the valley to the left into which our troops had vanished, and from which sounds of firing were coming. Above the heights stood a clear, dark blue sky, and on the right the vast orb of the sun. In the distance in front, on the coast of that sea of mist, rose up the wooded hills, on which the enemy's army should have been, and something could be descried there. On the right there was the tramp of hoofs and rumble of wheels, with now and then the gleam of bayonets, as the guards plunged into the region of mist; on the left, behind the village, similar masses of cavalry were moving and disappearing into the sea of fog. In front and behind were the marching infantry. The commander-in-chief was standing at the end of the village, letting the troops pass before him. Kutuzov seemed exhausted and irritable that morning. The infantry marching by him halted without any command being given, apparently because something in front blocked up the way.

“Do tell the men to form in battalion columns and go round the village,” said Kutuzov angrily to a general who rode up. “How is it you don't understand, my dear sir, that it's out of the question to let them file through the defile of the village street, when we are advancing to meet the enemy.”

“I had proposed forming beyond the village, your most high excellency,” replied the general.

Kutuzov laughed bitterly.

“A nice position you'll be in, deploying your front in sight of the enemy—very nice.”

“The enemy is a long way off yet, your most high excellency. According to the disposition. …”

“The disposition!” Kutuzov cried with bitter spleen; “but who told you so? … Kindly do as you are commanded.”

“Yes, sir.”

“My dear boy,” Nesvitsky whispered to Prince Andrey, “the old fellow is in a vile temper.”

An Austrian officer wearing a white uniform and green plumes in his hat, galloped up to Kutuzov and asked him in the Emperor's name: Had the fourth column started?

Kutuzov turned away without answering, and his eye fell casually on Prince Andrey, who was standing near him. Seeing Bolkonsky, Kutuzov let his vindictive and bitter expression soften, as though recognising that his adjutant was not to blame for what was being done. And still not answering the Austrian adjutant, he addressed Bolkonsky.

“Go and see, my dear fellow, whether the third division has passed the village. Tell them to stop and wait for my orders.”

Prince Andrey had scarcely started when he stopped him.

“And ask whether the sharpshooters are posted,” he added. “What they are doing, what they are doing!” he murmured to himself, still making no reply to the Austrian.

Prince Andrey galloped off to do his bidding. Overtaking all the advancing battalions, he stopped the third division and ascertained that there actually was no line of sharpshooters in advance of our columns. The officer in command of the foremost regiment was greatly astounded on the order being brought him from the commander-in-chief to send a flying line of sharpshooters in advance. The officer had been resting in the full conviction that there were other troops in front of him, and that the enemy could not be less than ten versts away. In reality there was nothing in front of him but an empty stretch of ground, sloping downhill and covered with fog. Giving him the commander-in-chief's order to rectify the omission, Prince Andrey galloped back. Kutuzov was still at the same spot; his bulky frame drooped in the saddle with the lassitude of old age, and he was yawning wearily with closed eyes. The troops had not yet moved on, but were standing at attention.

“Good, good,” he said to Prince Andrey, and he turned to the general who, watch in hand, was saying that it was time they started, as all the columns of the left flank had gone down already.

“We have plenty of time yet, your excellency,” Kutuzov interpolated between his yawns. “Plenty of time!” he repeated.

At that moment in the distance behind Kutuzov there were sounds of regiments saluting; the shouts came rapidly nearer along the whole drawn-out line of the advancing Russian columns. Clearly he who was the object of these greetings was riding quickly. When the soldiers of the regiment, in front of which Kutuzov was standing, began to shout, he rode off a little on one side, and wrinkling up his face, looked round. Along the road from Pratzen, galloped what looked like a whole squadron of horsemen of different colours. Two of them galloped side by side ahead of the rest. One was in a black uniform with a white plume, on a chestnut English thoroughbred, the other in a white uniform on a black horse. These were the two Emperors and their suites. With a sort of affectation of the manner of an old soldier at the head of his regiment, Kutuzov gave the command, “Steady,” to the standing troops and rode up to the Emperors, saluting. His whole figure and manner were suddenly transformed. He assumed the air of a subordinate, a man who accepts without criticism. With an affectation of respectfulness which unmistakably made an unpleasant impression on Alexander, he rode up and saluted him.

The unpleasant impression, like the traces of fog in a clear sky, merely flitted across the young and happy face of the Emperor and vanished. He looked that day rather thinner after his illness than he had been at the review of Olmütz, where Bolkonsky had seen him for the first time abroad. But there was the same bewitching combination of majesty and mildness in his fine, grey eyes, and on his delicate lips the same possibility of varying expressions and the predominant expression of noble-hearted, guileless youth.

At the Olmütz review he had been more majestic, here he was livelier and more energetic. He was flushed a little from the rapid three-verst gallop, and as he pulled up his horse, he breathed a sigh of relief, and looked round at those among the faces of his suite that were as young and eager as his own. Behind the Tsar were Tchartorizhsky, and Novosiltsov, and Prince Bolkonsky, and Stroganov, and the rest, all richly dressed, gay young men on splendid, well-groomed, fresh horses, slightly heated from the gallop. The Emperor Francis, a rosy, long-faced young man, sat excessively erect on his handsome sable horse, casting deliberate and anxious looks around him. He beckoned one of his white adjutants and asked him a question. “Most likely at what o'clock they started,” thought Prince Andrey, watching his old acquaintance with a smile, which he could not repress, as he remembered his audience with him. With the Emperors' suite were a certain number of fashionable young aristocrats—Russians and Austrians selected from the regiments of the guards and the line. Among them were postillions leading extra horses, beautiful beasts from the Tsar's stables, covered with embroidered horsecloths.

Like a breath of fresh country air rushing into a stuffy room through an open window was the youth, energy, and confidence of success that the cavalcade of brilliant young people brought with them into Kutuzov's cheerless staff.

“Why aren't you beginning, Mihail Larionovitch?” the Emperor Alexander said hurriedly, addressing Kutuzov, while he glanced courteously towards the Emperor Francis.

“I am waiting to see, your majesty,” Kutuzov answered, bowing reverentially.

The Emperor turned his ear towards him, with a slight frown and an air of not having caught his words.

“I'm waiting to see, your majesty,” repeated Kutuzov (Prince Andrey noticed that Kutuzov's upper lip quivered unnaturally as he uttered that: “I'm waiting”). “Not all the columns are massed yet, your majesty.”

The Tsar heard him, but the answer apparently did not please him; he shrugged his sloping shoulders, and glanced at Novosiltsov, who stood near, with a look that seemed to complain of Kutuzov.

“We are not on the Tsaritsin field, you know, Mihail Larionovitch, where the parade is not begun till all the regiments are ready,” said the Tsar, glancing again at the Emperor Francis as though inviting him, if not to take part, at least to listen to what he was saying. But the Emperor Francis still gazed away and did not listen.

“That's just why I'm not beginning, sire,” said Kutuzov in a resounding voice, as though foreseeing a possibility his words might be ignored, and once more there was a quiver in his face. “That's why I am not beginning, sire; because we are not on parade and not on the Tsaritsin field,” he articulated clearly and distinctly.

All in the Tsar's suite exchanged instantaneous glances with one another, and every face wore an expression of regret and reproach. “However old he may be, he ought not, he ought never to speak like that,” the faces expressed.

The Tsar looked steadily and attentively into Kutuzov's face, waiting to see if he were not going to say more. But Kutuzov too on his side, bending his head respectfully, seemed to be waiting. The silence lasted about a minute.

“However, if it's your majesty's command,” said Kutuzov, lifting his head and relapsing into his former affectation of the tone of a stupid, uncritical general, who obeys orders. He moved away, and beckoning the commanding officer of the column, Miloradovitch, gave him the command to advance.

The troops began to move again, and two battalions of the Novgorod regiment and a battalion of the Apsheron regiment passed before the Tsar.

While the Apsheron battalion was marching by, Miloradovitch, a red-faced man, wearing a uniform and orders, with no overcoat, and a turned-up hat with huge plumes stuck on one side, galloped ahead of them, and saluting in gallant style, reined up his horse before the Tsar.

“With God's aid, general,” said the Tsar.

Ma foi, sire, we will do whatever is in our power to do,” he answered gaily, arousing none the less an ironical smile among the gentlemen of the Tsar's suite by his bad French accent. Miloradovitch wheeled his horse round sharply, and halted a few steps behind the Tsar. The Apsheron men, roused by the presence of the Tsar, stepped out gallantly as they marched by the Emperors and their suites.

“Lads!” shouted Miloradovitch in his loud, self-confident, and cheery voice. He was apparently so excited by the sounds of the firing, the anticipation of battle, and the sight of the gallant Apsheron men, his old comrades with Suvorov, that he forgot the Tsar's presence. “Lads! it's not the first village you've had to take!” he shouted.

“Glad to do our best,” roared the soldiers. The Tsar's horse reared at the unexpected sound. This horse, who had carried the Tsar at reviews in Russia, bore his rider here on the field of Austerlitz, patiently enduring the heedless blows of his left foot, and pricked up his ears at the sound of shots as he had done on the review ground with no comprehension of the significance of these sounds, nor of the nearness of the raven horse of Emperor Francis, nor of all that was said and thought and felt that day by the man who rode upon his back.

The Tsar turned with a smile to one of his courtiers, pointing to the gallant-looking Apsheron regiment, and said something to him.

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